Hirscher dominant on the Gran Risa

21 December 2014 14:46
Hirscher charging down the Gran Risa
Hirscher charging down the Gran Risa -

Men’s World Cup competition continued in the Dolomites Sunday with the third day of racing dominated by Marcel Hirscher. The Austrian overall champ was again superb, commanding a third victory in four giant slaloms this season.

On the Gran Rise piste of Alta Badia, Hirscher finished with a combined time of 2 minutes, 30.17 seconds, amounting to 1.45 seconds quicker than his American rival Ted Ligety, who skied to second. Frenchman Thomas Fanara, who had been knocking on the podium door all season, was third, just three-hundredths behind Ligety.

In both runs, the track became rutted and bumpy, resulting in a significant advantage for the earlier skiers. Wearing bib No. 1, Hirscher was first to start in the first run and last to start the second, showcasing his ability to charge the more cut-up conditions. He was simply quicker and cleaner from edge to edge than his competition, seeming to fly over ruts and bumps like they weren’t even there. Finishing the runs first and third, respectively, was more than enough to secure the win.

“For me, my feelings skiing the second run does not fit with my time,” said Hirscher. “When I crossed the finish line, I thought, ‘Oh my god, that must be a mistake’ because my feeling in the run was really bad. It was so bumpy and so rough, a really tough race.”

Of Ligety, Hirscher said these just haven’t been his races, his conditions, but the American is always dangerous and Hirscher wouldn’t be surprised to see him back competing for the top spot as soon as the next race.

“Right now, I haven’t had as much training as I would like to,” said Ligety. “It’s tough to have full confidence when you have to get on World Cup trails because they’re never easy. You have to push your limits and go hard, and I just haven’t been in the right place to go to that gear. I’m happy to salvage second place.”

For Ligety, it was a tale of two runs. He was seventh in the morning, clearly unable to find his groove. In the second run, he looked more like his normal self, more dynamic and active.

“It’s tough in all of Europe. You see green pasture on one side of the valley and a lot of snow on the race hill,” said Ligety. “The snow … is not ideal. Normally they do an amazing job prepping the hill here. I think, being so warm, it’s just hard to get it to that usual surface. It was really bumpy, even running fourth. There was big holes and big bumps. Maybe I wasn’t quite in the right mindset to go so hard when I was getting bounced around.”

As for the GS title, which Ligety still hopes to defend, there are four races down and four to go. Ligety trails Hirscher by 74 points.

“Last year at this time, I was a long way back and was able to turn it around. Hopefully I can do that again this year. With Munich getting canceled, it should give us a little more time to get some volume in training-wise.”

Meanwhile, in the overall, Kjetil Jansrud finished a characteristic 14th place for GS, quietly picking up 18 World Cup points. It had been suspected that the second run, set by the Norwegians, was potentially designed to benefit Jansrud, who’s currently locked in a tight overall battle with Hirscher. With gates set upwards of 28 meters apart, the faster speeds could potentially have aided the Norwegian in picking up a few extra points.

The only performance perhaps as impressive as Hirscher was that of the 21-year-old Croatian Filip Zubcic, who earned just his second-career qualification, skiing from bib 64 to 17th in the second run and ultimately finishing seventh on the day. He did a long stint in the leader’s box until Ligety knocked him out.

“It’s an awesome result,” said Zubcic. “This was the best race of my life. It’s like a dream. In the last training, I skied pretty good, but wasn’t sure for top 10. It’s unbelievable.”

The men’s World Cup continues in Italy tomorrow with a night slalom at Madonna di Campiglio before the holiday break.